Phoebe Yeh: How I Got into Publishing

VP & Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House Children’s Books

Senior Year.  Second Semester.  It started with a Children’s Literature class I took with Jane Yolen.  I admit, I hadn’t read any children’s books…since middle school, seventh grade, back in my day.  And I had definitely never heard of Natalie Babbitt and Steven Kellogg, part of the course reading.  I read TUCK EVERLASTING and was profoundly moved – and horrified that I had missed out on Natalie Babbitt because I was “too old” when she started writing children’s books.  (Then I binge read everything else by Natalie Babbitt.)  Same with Steven Kellogg, only I was able to read all of Steven’s picture books in one day.

Fast forward.  I’ve graduated from college.  I’m in Taiwan, teaching English as a second language and loathing it.  Teaching is not my avocation.  For solace, I reread and reread the three books I brought with me: RAMONA THE PEST, PIPPI LONGSTOCKING (remember, second semester course reading) and THE JOURNALS OF SYLVIA PLATH (Remember, I’m all of twenty one, full of recent college graduate angst.)

Upon my return to the States, I have a new career plan.  I’m from New York City.  That’s where most all the publishers are: I should get a job in publishing, children’s publishing.  My Chinese immigrant parents are aghast.  Odd enough to choose publishing as a career choice; why am I making it even harder by choosing a niche like children’s books?  I won’t be swayed.  Even though I know nothing about the business (Remember, this is the mid 80s.) out of my newly discovered passion for children’s books, I’m determined to work in children’s publishing only.  And since I’m an English major, a job in the editorial department makes the most sense. It doesn’t really occur to me that there are a myriad of jobs in the publishing sector and I don’t have to limit myself to one department.  (Today, I tell students and interns: Don’t do it this way!)

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The key to effective diversity initiatives [within companies and organizations], research has shown, comes not in mandatory manager training, but rather in finding ways to engage managers to contribute to their company’s diversity efforts. For example, encouraging managers to volunteer as mentors to underrepresented employees is one of the most successful diversity efforts taken on by companies.

Jane Porter, Fast Company

Read the full article on diversity training here.

Steps Towards Improving Diversity in Book Publishing

Photo taken by Calvin ReidA sample of book publishing professionals have responded to the glaring lack of diversity within the workforce, and put forth possible solutions. Awareness has expanded following the release of Publishers Weekly’s annual Salary Survey and Diversity Panel, the continued efforts of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and current events taking shape across the nation.

Ayanna Coleman, associate manager of events and programs at the Children’s Book Council and CBC Diversity Committee Liaison, was among the PW Diversity Panel attendees and, along with eight other responders, offered her professional insight on the matter. The discussion generated six concrete action points or “hacks” to improve diversity, which range from emulating other industries’ strategies to harnessing social media and technology.

At one of our recent CBC [Diversity] committee meetings, we discussed the huge challenge of discoverability [of titles], especially with diverse content. Mark von Bargen, senior director of trade sales for children’s books at Macmillan, came up with the idea of updating BISAC codes [standardized headings used to categorize books]. Providing a book with the proper BISAC codes (you usually can only use three out of the hundreds available) is huge, as it determines where a book is shelved and how it comes up in a bookstore or library search by consumers…[the] committee brainstormed nine new, more specific BISAC codes, like “Juvenile Fiction/Family/Immigration and Assimilation,” for consideration to add to the 2015 industry-standard subject list.